Division of Law Enforcement Services

Background Check & Criminal History Information

 

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau (CIB) manages the central fingerprint-based criminal history repository for Wisconsin.  The centralized criminal history (CCH) database contains detailed information of arrests, arrest charges, prosecution, court findings, sentences, and state correctional system admissions and releases.  The database is an accumulation of information submitted by Wisconsin law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, courts, and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections as required by applicable statutes.

 

All information in CIB’s criminal history database is based on submission by police departments of arrest fingerprint cards.  Wisconsin law enforcement agencies are required under §165.84(1) to submit arrest fingerprint cards for offenses designated in §165.83(2)(a).  CIB is also required to accept any other arrest fingerprint cards taken at the discretion of law enforcement agencies for offenses other than those listed in §165.83(2)(a).  Some criminal history information may be obtained from other sources, such as courts and or corrections.

 

Fingerprint-supported records can be used to confirm whether or not a criminal record in the file belongs to a particular individual.  Arrests without supporting fingerprints or related dispositions are not included in the criminal history database.

 

Because name-based checks are quicker, cheaper, and easier than fingerprint-based searches, most background checks required in Wisconsin are name-based.  In many instances they are the only type of checks available to employers, landlords, and other individuals requesting a background check.  Because name-based checks use non-unique identifying data, such as name and date of birth, they are less reliable than fingerprint-based checks.  It is possible for multiple persons to share a name and date of birth.  In some cases, a name-based check may pull up a criminal record that does not belong to the subject of the search.

 

CIB provides a process for clarifying a false match that may result from submission of a particular person’s identifying data for a name-based criminal history background check.  This process is initiated by submitting a Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form (DJ-LE-247) and a full set of fingerprints.

 

Below you will find information on the following topics:

 

Requesting a record check
How to read a criminal record
Notice to employers
Mistaken identity or false match
Incorrect charge information
Removal of arrest information
Missing or incorrect disposition information
Challenging a criminal history record
Contact us

 

Requesting a record Check

Before requesting a criminal history record check it is important that you carefully read ALL information contained in the following sections titled: How to read a criminal record, Notice to employers, Challenging a criminal history record, and Mistaken identity or false match. It is recommended that you carefully read this entire page before requesting a criminal history record check.

 

By mail:
Complete a request form DJ-LE-250. Submit the form, payment, and a self addressed stamped return envelope to:

 

Record Check Unit
PO Box 2688
Madison WI 53701-2688


You should receive your response in 7 to 10 days.  Fees are charged even if a record is not found.

 

By internet:
Visit the record check website to submit your request.

 

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How to read a criminal record

You must carefully read the entire explanation and the Wisconsin Criminal History Record response in order to determine whether the record pertains to the individual whose identifying information was submitted to be searched. The response is based on a search using the name, date of birth and any other identifying data provided in the search request. The identifying data provided in the search request will be included on the cover page accompanying the search response.

 

Each criminal history response will include important information about the response. You should thoroughly read the “How to read a criminal record” and the “Notice to employers” section provided with each criminal history record response to understand how the response relates to the identifying information submitted to be searched.

 

  • CIB cannot guarantee that the criminal history record returned pertains to the person whose identifying information was submitted to be searched.

 

  • You must carefully read the entire Wisconsin criminal history record response in order to determine whether the record returned pertains to the person whose identifying information was submitted to be searched.

 

  • Do not just assume that a criminal history record pertains to the person whose identifying information was submitted to be searched.

 

  • The response may not show all arrests for the person whose fingerprints are associated with the criminal history provided in the response.  However, the criminal history response will contain all information that has been provided to the state criminal history database that may be released in response to a particular request.

 

  • The results of a criminal history search are effective and current only up to the date of the particular search.  A new search request should be submitted at a later time if an updated response is needed.

 

The criminal history record response will include the date of the response, order number, and the identifying information that was submitted and used to conduct the search.  Criminal history background search requests submitted in paper form (DJ-LE-250) will be returned by U.S. mail with a record attached or an indication of “no record found”.

 

The criminal history response is linked by fingerprints to the name appearing directly after the explanatory sections of the response, following the label “IDENTIFICATION”.  That name is the name that was provided by the fingerprinted person the first time his or her fingerprints were submitted to CIB and is called the “Master Name” in the explanatory sections; it may or may not be the real name of the fingerprinted person. 

 

Other names used by the person identified who is the “Master Name” are listed in the “Alias Names/Fraudulent Data” section of the criminal history response.  It is not uncommon for criminal offenders to use alias or fraudulent names and false dates of birth, sometimes known as “identity theft”.

 

  • If the name you submitted to be searched is DIFFERENT from the “Master Name”, the Wisconsin criminal history record response may belong to someone other than the person whose name and other identifying data you submitted for searching.  If an alias or fraudulent name used by the person who is the “Master Name” is similar to the name you submitted for searching, that does not mean that the person whose name you submitted for searching has a criminal history.  It means that the person associated by fingerprints with the Wisconsin criminal history response has used a name similar to the name you submitted for searching.

 

  • If the name you submitted to be searched is THE SAME as the “Master Name”, the Wisconsin criminal history record response may belong to someone other than the person whose name and other identifying data you submitted for searching.  That is because the “Master Name” is the name attached to the initial fingerprint submission to CIB that is associated with the reported criminal history, and may have been an alias name. 

 

To determine whether the Wisconsin criminal history record response actually belongs to the person whose name and other identifying information you submitted for searching, compare the information reported on the response to the other information you have obtained about that person.  Inconsistencies may indicate that the criminal history response does not belong to the person whose name and other identifying information you submitted for searching.  You may need to ask for clarification from the person whose name and other identifying information you submitted for searching.

 

Before you make a final decision adverse to a person based on a criminal history response, in addition to any other opportunity you offer the applicant to explain the criminal history record response, please notify the applicant of:

 

  1. His or her right to challenge the accuracy and completeness of any information contained in a criminal history record
  2. The process for submitting a challenge.
  1. The challenging a criminal history record section explains how someone can go about submitting a criminal history challenge for review by CIB.
  2. An individual may also contact CIB at (608) 266-7314 for additional assistance with this process.


CIB’s Criminal Records brochure may be of further assistance.

 

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Notice to employers

It may be a violation of state law to discriminate against a job applicant because of an arrest or conviction record.  Generally speaking, an employer may refuse to hire an applicant on the basis of a conviction record only if the circumstances of the offense for which the applicant was convicted substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular job. For more information, see Wisconsin Statute § 111.335  and the Department of Workforce Development's publication, Arrest and Conviction Records Under the Law .

 

Before you make a final decision adverse to a person based on a criminal history response, in addition to any other opportunity you offer the applicant to explain the criminal history record response, please notify the applicant of:

 

 

  1. His or her right to challenge the accuracy and completeness of any information contained in a criminal history record, and
  2. The process for submitting a challenge. 
  1. The challenging a criminal history record section explains how someone can go about submitting a criminal history challenge for review by CIB.
  2. An individual may also contact CIB at (608) 266-7314 for additional assistance with this process.

 

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Mistaken identity or false match

The search algorithm used to produce criminal history reports uses name, sex, year of birth, and common variations of those terms. If someone uses a name similar to your name or gives it as an alias when arrested, that name will be entered in the Wisconsin criminal history database. You may have been a victim of identity theft or your name may be very similar to the name of a person who has a criminal record. If a background check is requested on a name similar to your name, ALL names in the database, including aliases, are searched.  The search response will return all of the convictions that belong to the person who used a name similar to your name. That means that if you were born the same year as a person who has a name similar to your name and is of the same sex as you are, that person’s criminal history may show up when a name similar to your name is searched.

 

To clarify that you are not the subject of the criminal history reported in response to a search request, you may submit a Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form.  See the “challenging a criminal history” section below for more information.

 

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Incorrect charge information

Sometimes a criminal history report will list convictions inaccurately. To correct these errors or inaccuracies on a criminal history report requested for you, obtain a certified copy of the judgment of conviction for your case. You can obtain this from the court where you were convicted.  Send the judgment to CIB along with a Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form, explaining why you believe the record is incorrect or in error.  If the documentation submitted supports your request, the record will be changed in the CIB criminal history database.

 

Each criminal history record cycle on a criminal history report may contain several sections: arrest, prosecutor, and court. The charges issued by the district attorney may not be the same as the original arrest charges reported by the arresting agency. This does not qualify the original arrest charges for removal from the criminal history database. It simply means the prosecutor chose to file charges different than those reported at the time of arrest. Likewise, the court disposition may involve charges other than those in either the arrest or prosecutor sections.

 

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Removal of arrest information

Sometimes a criminal history report will contain expunged, dismissed, or not prosecuted charges.  In most cases, state law does not permit the removal of arrest information. If an arrest on the record qualifies for removal, you must submit the Fingerprint Record Removal Request (DJ-LE-250B) to CIB.

 

Eligible for removal:  To qualify for this type of removal, all of the charges listed on the arrest fingerprint submission must have been dismissed or not charged.  Charges amended to a lesser offense do not qualify for removal.

 

  • Dismissed charges or charges not prosecuted.

 

  • Released without charges being filed.

 

  • Acquitted by a court.


Not eligible for removal:

 

  • Individual charges that are part of an arrest event (All charges on an arrest fingerprint submission must be eligible for removal in order for your request to be processed).

 

  • Custody transactions such as: warrants, probation violations, and extradition proceedings.

 

  • Expungement of a case in court.  This does not satisfy the statutory requirements for removal from the criminal record.

 

  • Offenses resulting in a conviction with a stipulation that the record be expunged upon successful completion of the terms of the agreement.  This results in the court record being expunged, but state statute prohibits the removal of the arrest and conviction information from the criminal history database.

 

  • Dispositions under first offender or youthful offender provisions also do not qualify unless the charge was dismissed by the court

 

If you do not qualify for removal of arrest information under §165.84(1), another option may be to request Executive Clemency from the Governor.  This will not remove the information from the criminal history record but may restore certain rights and will be noted on the record.  Information on Executive Clemency may be found on the Governor’s website.

 

CIB’s Removal of Arrest Information brochure may be of further assistance.

 

 

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Missing or incorrect disposition information

If you believe there is missing or incorrect disposition information in a criminal history report requested for you, you may submit a “Judgment of Conviction” or “Order for Dismissal” issued by the court that handled the case.  You may also submit a letter from the office of the prosecutor that handled the case indicating the case was not prosecuted.  Many courts have their case information available online at http://wcca.wicourts.gov.

 

In most instances, state law does not permit the removal of disposition information. Instead, notations may be added to the disposition information in a criminal history search response for the following:

 

  • Special dispositions under §973.015.

 

  • Conditional probations §961.47(1), 961.47(2)or §161.47.

 

  • Court-ordered expungements for cases that did not result in dismissal of all charges.

 

  • Governor’s Pardon or Executive Clemency.

 

In the following limited situations, a record may be removed in its entirety through a Department of Justice expungement. To qualify for this type of removal all of the charges listed on the arrest fingerprint submission must have been dismissed or not charged. 

 

  • Dismissed charges or charges not prosecuted.

 

  • Released without charges being filed.

 

  • Acquitted by a court.


If a charge is amended to a lesser offense resulting in a conviction it does not qualify for a DOJ expungement.

 

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Challenging a criminal history record

To submit a criminal history challenge for review by CIB, submit a completedMinimum data includes: full name, sex, race, date of birth, reason fingerprinted (Criminal Record Challenge), and information regarding the official capturing the fingerprints applicant fingerprint card (FD-258)  along with a completed Wisconsin Criminal History Challenge Form (DJ-LE-247)  to the address listed on the challenge form.  Fingerprint cards should not be folded for mailing.  There is no fee to request a challenge.

 

CIB will compare your fingerprints with the fingerprints of the person who gave a name similar to your name in connection with an arrest reported to the criminal history database.  If the fingerprints are not the same you will get a clearance letter.  You can use this letter to prove to prospective employers or others that the criminal history that shows up in response to a criminal history search request for a name similar to your name does not belong to you.

 

As part of the identity confirmation process, your fingerprints will be compared with other fingerprints on file at CIB.  If a fingerprint comparison confirms that you are the subject of a criminal history record or unsolved crime, the information provided by you (including name and date of birth) may be added to the corresponding criminal history record and/or shared with other criminal justice agencies.  

 

CIB can not remove conviction records belonging to someone else from a criminal history search result for a name similar to your name.  Information submitted to the state criminal history repository is the property of the submitting entity and cannot be changed without permission of that entity.  You may request the submitting agency remove the information and have that agency notify CIB to make the change.

 

CIB’s Removal of Arrest Information Brochure may be of further assistance.
CIB’s Criminal Records Brochure may be of further assistance.
CIB’s Background Check Manual  may be of further assistance.
Additional forms, brochures and manuals may be found on the CIB Forms page


Contact us
For additional assistance or if you have any questions please call
CIB Front Desk (608) 266-7314
Record Check Unit Supervisor (608)266-9398
 

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